Tags: Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | ferguson | city | council | member | hope

Ferguson Ex-Mayor, Councilman-elect: 'A Great New Beginning'

By    |   Wednesday, 08 Apr 2015 07:07 PM

A former mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, who saw his city torn apart and vilified last year after the shooting death of Michael Brown, was elected to the City Council on Tuesday and says he is "ecstatic" to have won the confidence of voters as they look toward a brighter future.

"It's a new day in Ferguson, a great new beginning," Councilman-elect Brian Fletcher told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

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Voters turned out in record numbers on Tuesday and reshuffled the City Council in the first municipal elections since the racially charged strife and rioting that followed the young black man's death last August at the hands of a white police officer.

African-Americans for the first time have achieved racial parity on the six-member local governing board, thanks to two newcomers, Ella Jones and Wesley Bell, who will take seats alongside the city's other black council member.

But local voters didn't topple the establishment outright: Fletcher, who is white and has been quick to defend Ferguson against critics, won anyway.

The ex-mayor and current chairman of the "I Love Ferguson" committee, helping battered local businesses to rebuild, Fletcher captured 56.7 percent of the vote against Bob Hudgins, a white Fergusonian who marched in protests after Brown's death.

In a hometown political contest that garnered national attention and coverage, the 30 percent turnout was twice what Ferguson-only elections usually draw.

"It was a great turnout for a municipal election here in Ferguson," said Fletcher. "The people … had eight months of attention brought onto them, and they didn't want to disappoint. They wanted to show the nation that they do care about their community, and I'm just happy to be a part of the process: moving forward, making progress for our city and getting back to normalcy in our lives."

Ferguson needs to hire a new police chief and city manager, for starters, after those executives and other people on the city payroll stepped down or were fired in response to a Justice Department probe prompted by Brown's death.

The federal government cleared the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot Brown on Aug. 9, but issued damning findings on the administration of justice in a majority-black city of 21,000 people with a predominantly white political establishment and police force.

The city on Friday released racist emails exchanged between a court clerk and two police officers. The clerk was fired and the officers resigned after the correspondence surfaced during the Justice Department probe.

"It's going to take a while to heal," said Fletcher. "It's going to take a while for people to feel there's trust in their police department. Some of that lack of trust is unwarranted, however, and as time goes on, they'll see that.

"We have a lot to do," he said. "We've got to hire a new city manager. We need to get a new police chief, a new municipal judge, several police officers, and we're going right into budget negotiations. And as you know, the revenue stream from the tickets was an issue with the Department of Justice. We're going to have to find a way to set our priorities and still provide the quality services that we've always done."

He said he would like Ferguson police to hire more African-American officers, but said relatively few African-Americans attend and graduate from police academies, "and when they do, they are usually snatched up by communities that might be able to pay a little higher price."

"But we're going to work very hard," he said. "We're going to offer some police academy scholarships to minorities, and that will help."

He said the global attention trained on Ferguson — though painful — might ultimately help to attract good candidates.

Fletcher had high praise for his new council colleagues, Jones and Bell. He also predicted that "in a few years, people will reflect back and not just remember the fact that Michael Brown was killed on Aug. 9 of last year, but also how a wonderful community recovered."

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A former mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, who saw his city torn apart and vilified last year after the shooting death of Michael Brown, was elected to the City Council on Tuesday and says he is "ecstatic" to have won the confidence of voters as they look toward a brighter future.
ferguson, city, council, member, hope, future, race, police, shooting
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2015-07-08
Wednesday, 08 Apr 2015 07:07 PM
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